Ocean bureau fields requests for 1,200 MW of wind projects offshore of Oahu

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will publish two separate notices in the June 24 Federal Register about plans to move forward with possible leasing of wind power development areas offshore of Oahu in Hawaii, with the bureau already having three offers in hand from two private developers for projects in that area.

One June 24 notice is about BOEM’s intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment. The EA will address environmental impacts and socioeconomic effects related to the proposed action, issuance of one or more commercial wind energy leases and approval of site assessment activities on those leases. This June 24 notice serves to announce the beginning of the formal scoping process. Scoping will help identify reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, focus the analysis in the EA on potentially significant issues, and eliminate those issues that are determined to be insignificant or considered irrelevant to the analysis.

BOEM will also use the scoping process to seek public comment on the full range of potential environmental impacts, including input relevant to the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Additional information on the proposed action may be found at http://www.boem.gov/Hawaii/. Comments should be submitted within 45 days after the Federal Register notice.

The proposed action that will be the subject of the EA consists of: the issuance of a wind energy lease or leases within some or all of the Call Area offshore the island of Oahu; and the approval of site assessment activities (including the installation and operation of a meteorological tower and/or one or more meteorological buoys) on the lease or leases. BOEM will also consider the environmental impacts associated with potential site characterization activities—including geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and biological surveys—that a lessee may undertake to fulfill the information requirements for its Site Assessment Plan and Construction and Operation Plan.

The other June 24 notice is a Call for Information and Nominations. BOEM invites the submission of information and nominations from parties interested in obtaining one or more commercial wind energy leases that would allow lessees to propose the construction of wind energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) offshore the island of Oahu. In general, the OCS is defined as 3 to 200 nautical miles from shore. Although this announcement is not itself a leasing announcement, the area described as the “Oahu Call Area,” or portions thereof, may be made available for future leasing. BOEM will use responses to this call to gauge specific interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in some or all of the Oahu Call Area. 

This announcement also requests comments and information from interested and affected parties about site conditions, resources, and existing uses within or in close proximity to the Oahu Call Area that would be relevant to BOEM’s review of any nominations submitted and/or to BOEM’s subsequent decision to offer all or part of the Oahu Call Area for commercial wind leasing.

The Oahu Call Area consists of two subareas, the area to the north of Oahu (“Oahu North”) and the area to the south of Oahu (“Oahu South”).

  • Oahu North is approximately 7 to 24 nautical miles Northwest of Kaena Point and consists of 17 full and 20 partial OCS blocks.
  • Oahu South is approximately 7 to 35 nautical miles South of Diamond Head and consists of 44 full and 32 partial OCS blocks.

BOEM must receive nominations describing any interest within the Oahu Call Area within 45 days of the Federal Register notice. 

BOEM noted that the State of Hawaii established a renewable portfolio goal in 2001. This goal was replaced with an enforceable renewable portfolio standard (RPS) through Act 95 in 2004. In 2009, Act 155 increased the RPS to 40% by 2040. Finally, in 2015, Gov. David Ige signed into law Act 97, which directs the state’s utilities to generate 100% of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045. As the most oil dependent state in the nation, Hawaii’s transition to renewable resources for power generation will improve Hawaii’s economy, environment and energy security, BOEM said.

In 2008, the State of Hawaii, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to accomplish the goal of transforming Hawaii’s energy economy from one largely dependent on imported fossil fuels to one using only renewable energy. This MOU established the foundation for the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI). In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy renewed its long-term partnership with the State of Hawaii, in HCEI 2.0, and committed to assisting Hawaii in exceeding the state’s renewable energy goals by working in collaboration with energy leaders, partners and stakeholders to address Hawaii’s unique energy challenges.

BOEM has fielded offers for this offshore area

In January 2015, BOEM received two lease requests from AW Hawaii Wind LLC. In October 2015, BOEM received a lease request from Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind Inc. BOEM has determined that both potential developers are legally, technically, and financially qualified to hold a renewable energy lease.

  • AW Hawaii Oahu Northwest Project – AW Hawaii proposes to lease an area northwest of Oahu. The proposed Oahu Northwest Project consists of the development of a floating offshore wind facility with an approximate nameplate capacity of 400 MW. The area included in the lease request consists of 10 partial OCS blocks (encompassing 32 sub-blocks in total) comprising approximately 13.4 square nautical miles.
  • AW Hawaii Oahu South Project – AW Hawaii also proposes to lease an area south of Oahu. The proposed Oahu South Project consists of the development of a floating offshore wind facility with an approximate nameplate capacity of 400 MW. The area included in the lease request consists of 10 partial OCS blocks (encompassing 34 sub-blocks in total) comprising approximately 14.27 square nautical miles.
  • Progression South Coast of Oahu Project – Progression submitted an unsolicited request proposing to lease an area on the OCS south of Oahu’s coast, but distinct from the area requested for lease by AW Hawaii in its Oahu South Project. Progression’s South Coast of Oahu Project consists of a floating offshore wind facility with an approximate nameplate capacity of 400 MW. The lease request includes 7 full and 12 partial OCS blocks (encompassing 218 sub-blocks in total) comprising about 91.5 square nautical miles.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.